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A Lasting Ordinance

The Gospel According to Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:06
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Meghann and I really enjoy food. We like good food and, if we’re being really honest, we have to admit that a sizeable portion of our entertainment budget gets spent on good food. We’ve become pretty decent cooks and make a lot of dishes at home—everything from tropical Thai curry to meatloaf, chicken tikka masala to Mama Case’s lasagna. But we also love going out to eat: sushi, steak, prime rib, Mexican, Thai, Indian, Korean, German, Greek. If there’s food to be eaten, call Meghann and me. We’re your people. We really like food.
What’s more, we love “breaking bread” with our friends and family. I think if I had to choose a favorite activity, it would be going out with a group of friends or having people over to our home and sharing a meal together. That’s my idea of a good evening.
I’ve been shopping around for something to hang on the wall next to our dining room table. I haven’t found the right one just yet, but I know what it’s going to say. It’s taken from the book of Acts:
Acts 2:46 NIV
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
Eating with one another is a huge part of what God’s people are meant to do; it’s part of what it means to be the Church. Hospitality, sharing a meal, preparing a meal for people is part of what it means to be a Christian.
The Lord Yahweh instituted a meal for His people to observe, to celebrate, to commemorate. This happened years ago; while they were in Egypt, before the Lord brought them out, He gave them specific instructions about what to eat, when to eat, and why to eat.
>If you have your Bible (and I hope you do), please turn with me to Exodus 12. If you are able and willing, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word. Exodus 12:14ff
Exodus 12:14–28 NIV
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do. 17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.” 21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning. 23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. 24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
May the Lord add His blessing to the reading of His Holy Word!
_______________
The tenth and final plague the Lord brought upon the Egyptians has been announced by the Lord, by Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh; we’ve read about it. The Lord has told the people what to do in preparation for it; here in our text this morning, we read even more about it and its preparations and restrictions.
But there’s something interesting here: it hasn’t happened yet. There’s all of this information about an event before the event has happened. It’s incredible: the Lord speaks about the event as if it’s already taken place.
Exodus 12:14 NIV
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.
The Lord has spoken. He has decreed that this event would occur. In His sovereignty, with unspeakable power, the Lord will bring this to pass. Even though it hasn’t yet taken place, it’s already a foregone conclusion. It’s done, though it hasn’t happened quite yet.
This ought to fill us unmatched confidence, confidence to the brim, overflowing confidence. Every word the Lord has spoken, every promise He’s promised, every jot and tittle of His script has or will come to pass.
The tenth and final plague—the death of every firstborn in Egypt—is near. It’s comin’ round the mountain. It’s so close.
Yet before it happens, the Lord wants to tell His people how they should observe it.
What the Lord’s doing here is making sure that His people will remember. More than anything else, the Lord wants His people to remember their salvation. He’s going to be saving them from the slavery in Egypt. He wants them to remember this for the rest of their lives; the Lord wants for them to pass it on to their children, down throughout the generations, forever and ever.
To make sure that His people would never forget their salvation, the Lord gives them a special memory aid: a meal—Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
This is to be an annual celebration.
An annual and lasting celebration—three times the Lord told Moses that He wanted Passover to become a permanent addition to Israel’s newly rearranged calendar.
This, Passover/The Feast of Unleavened Bread, would be their big holiday; the most significant one of the year.
Three times we read that this was to be a lasting ordinance:
Exodus 12:14 NIV
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.
Exodus 12:17 NIV
17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come.
Exodus 12:24 NIV
24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants.
A lasting ordinance...
The Israelites celebrated the first Passover in Egypt, on the night the Lord passed through and killed the firstborn of every unbelieving household in Egypt, the Israelites—each family—had taken a lamb, slaughtered it, put its blood on the doorframe of their home, roasted the lamb, and ate it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
The Israelites continued to celebrate Passover during the forty years spent wandering in the wilderness.
Numbers 9:1–5 NIV
1 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.” 4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.
Once they entered the Promised Land, they still kept the feast, just as the Lord had said:
Exodus 12:25 NIV
25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony.
The very first thing the Israelites did upon crossing the Jordan River and entering into the Promised Land was to celebrate the Passover in their new home.
Joshua 5:10–11 NIV
10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.
A lasting ordinance...
It was a yearly reminder of God’s saving grace. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was to be commemorated and celebrated.
Neither the Exodus nor the Passover were repeated every year—that’d be weird and unnecessary—but they were reenacted or retold every year, remembered every year, celebrated every year.
With blood and bread, the people would call to mind and remember all that the Lord had done for them.
The feast allowed them to see and taste and touch and smell and hear. It engaged their senses. It allowed them to relive their escape from Egypt. The message of salvation was preserved in their memory; it was passed on from generation to generation.
What a meal that would be! To share that meal with family, gathered around the table; to rehearse the events of that night; to consider the incomparable work of the Lord. To be struck anew with the deep, deep love of the Lord. To see the sacrificial lamb would lead those gathered in a grateful chorus of praise as they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
On that night in Egypt, the blood covered the people of the Lord and kept them safe, secure. Celebrating the Passover every year after, the blood and the bread would draw to mind the single-most important day in the history of their people.
A lasting ordinance...
Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread go together. They are not two separate events, but one week-long celebration. At other places in the OT, this festival is sometimes called “Passover” and sometimes “the Feast of Unleavened Bread”. But either term can be used to refer to the whole celebration.
The Bible explains why the Israelites used bread without yeast; it was symbolic of their flight from Egypt.
Remember how they were to eat the first Passover meal?
Exodus 12:11 NIV
11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
They left Egypt so quickly that they didn’t even have time to let the dough rise. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.
Eating unleavened bread was a historical happening. It was brought about by that first Passover.
It simply became a permanent part of their religious celebration. It’s one of those traditions the Lord insisted upon.
“No yeast! Eat nothing made with yeast! Whoever eats anything with yeast must be cut off from Israel!”
The Lord is very serious about this—all so His people would remember. If you’ve eaten unleavened bread, you know: you'll be able to tell that you are eating unleavened bread. It’s unmissable.
Moses took the instructions he had received from the Lord and instructed all the elders of Israel:
“Go immediately and select a lamb. Slaughter the lamb. Dip a hyssop branch in the blood of the lamb and paint your doorframe red. Stay in your houses until morning. The Lord will see the blood and will pass over you.”
This lasting ordinance was to be obeyed by the Israelites. They were to observe the ceremony.
And they were to tell their children all that this—the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread—meant to them.
They were to recount the details and the significance of the meal. It wasn’t just a meal to enjoy and reflect upon silently, privately. It was a “teachable moment” (parents, you know what I’m talking about—certain events and various portions of television shows or movies become “teachable moments”. The number of “teachable moments” I endured growing up…).
Passover was a “teachable moment”. The parents were to instruct the children, over and over, year after year, generation after generation.
“What’s this ceremony mean to you, Dad?”
“This is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when He struck down the Egyptians.”
This is a significant retelling. Notice the Passover lamb is referred to as the Passover sacrifice, because it was an offering for sin. Passover, then, was not just about deliverance from Egypt or freedom from bondage; Passover was about salvation from sin.
“What’s this ceremony mean to you?”
“It means we’re set free, in every way imaginable—set free! We’re set free by the sacrifice of the lamb, by the graciousness of the Lord, set free from slavery and sin and death!”
>Upon hearing about this lasting ordinance—the lasting ordinance which celebrates an event yet to take place—what do the people of Israel do?
If their past performance is an indication of future action, we’d probably say they grumbled or complained or got angry with Moses.
But what we see is a proper response.
Finally (finally!) the Israelites get it. They do what they are meant to do. They react rightly to the salvation of the Lord (before the Lord actually saves them, before the Lord brings them out of Egypt, before the Lord sets them free).
Pay attention to what they do. Write it down. Highlight it. Underline it in your Bible. The last sentence of verse 27:
Exodus 12:27 NIV
27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.
Then the people bowed down and worshipped.
It’s about time. And it’s exactly right. They were finally starting to do that which they should have been doing all along. They were the Lord’s people, saved by Him, so that He might be glorified by them. Finally, they worship.
They get down on their hands and knees to praise the Lord God—the One who made them, the One who kept them, the One who sought them and bought them, the One who was going to bring them out.
They bowed down and worshipped.
And then, they got up and did exactly what the Lord told them to do, down to the last detail.
Exodus 12:28 NIV
28 The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
In response to Him and all He did (and was going to do), the people of the Lord worship and obey.
>Fortunately for us, this is more than just a nice story from the OT that we get to read and study and wonder about. The Lord God has given us a similar feast—a lasting ordinance called “the Lord’s Supper.”
Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples, presumably a few times. Every year, all the believing households in Israel would observe Passover/the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Matthew 26:17 NIV
17 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
This would be the last Passover Jesus would celebrate with His disciples. And it would be forever re-imagined in light of Him.
Jesus intentionally uses the word celebrate when speaking of the Passover.
Matthew 26:18 NIV
18 He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ”
Jesus knows the command of the Lord to Moses to celebrate the Passover as a lasting ordinance—a celebration of what God did for them in Egypt, a celebration of how God worked to saved them from their oppression and slavery.
For Jesus, the Passover He celebrates prior to His crucifixion is going to be a celebration of what He is going to do for His disciples, a celebration of how He is going to save them from their oppression and slavery.
Jesus is going to use the reminder of Passover to remind His followers that only one thing will save them.
Not their good works.
Not luck or happenstance or coincidence.
Not their nationality or race or ethnicity.
On this Passover, it will be made clear to them that only the blood of the Lamb can save them.
Jesus brings an entirely new meaning to the Passover celebration.
He gives His disciples bread and says, “This is my body.”
He gives them a cup and says, “This is my blood of the new covenant.”
Jesus announces that He is the Lamb sacrificed to take away their sins; that the blood of Jesus, only the blood of Jesus, and nothing but the blood of Jesus has the power to save.
We remember His sacrifice, we celebrate our salvation every time we celebrate communion/the Lord’s Supper.
Passover was for the old covenant: it looked back to the exodus.
The Lord’s Supper is for the new covenant: it looks to the cross.
We celebrate it by eating bread and drinking the cup, doing it in remembrance of Him, making sure we never forget that we are sinners saved by the body and blood of the Lamb—Jesus Christ.
>A lasting ordinance...
The Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread served as a reminder to the people of Israel of what the Lord had done for them. It was a reminder that only one thing saved them—God Himself who acted graciously on their behalf to save them.
When we observe the Lord’s Supper, when we come to this table to celebrate, to break bread and eat together with glad and sincere hearts, it should serve as a reminder for us—a reminder that only one thing saves us—God Himself who has acted graciously to save us through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.
As we gather now around this table, let us eat and drink, commemorating, celebrating, observing, sharing all that Jesus has done.
Ask the person next to you, “What does this ceremony mean to you?”
And then answer: “This represents the perfect, once-for-all-time sacrifice Jesus made for every one of my sins—past, present, and future. I am covered by His blood and set free!”
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